The introduction of video assistant referees to the World Cup has been quite the interesting storyline in this edition of the tournament as for the first time referees get a chance to correct a call that might be wrong. Honestly, it’s been fantastic. I hope to see the game become better because of it.
If you are a soccer fan (yes, I’m American, that’s what I call it, deal with it) and you are upset over VAR, then let me tell you about how the sport of baseball came to love it. Lot’s of purists or traditionalists did not want replay to be implemented. They felt like that human error was a totally normal part of the game and it was for the longest time. However, they needed to get with the times as technology was advancing and every sport in the country was going that way. It needed to be done as too many teams had gotten screwed over by bad calls (look up Game Six of the 1985 World Series) and even players too (Armando Galarraga near perfect game). There was a lot of backlash by those purists/traditionalists when Major League Baseball decided to implement replay. It came in gradually as at first it was just home runs, but then later it would become as to what it is now, any controversial calls. There are certain aspects that still aren’t being used for replay, but it’s definitely something that has become critical for the sport. You know what happened, the purists/traditionalists started to like it. There might be some who still don’t, but most of them think it’s been good for the sport.
There is a parallel with the implementation of VAR to soccer with replay to baseball and it all begins with Frank Lampard. You may remember the match between Germany and England in the 2010 World Cup when Lampard struck a ball that hit the crossbar and had looked to have crossed over the line. Replay showed that it did, but when it happened, no goal was awarded. That should have been a goal. It was implemented in the 2014 World Cup and it has worked fine since. With VAR, it should do the same just like what replay did for baseball, make the sport better. The correct calls should be made.
VAR thus far has been a rousing success in this World Cup. According to a BBC article there have been 335 reviews made in this World Cup alone. 14 of them have been changed by the referee and three by VAR. That being said, according to VAR, referees have gotten 95% of the calls made correct with a success rate of 99.3%. Sure there might be some missed calls, been so far it’s been excellent. I personally want the correct calls made when I watch the match. An ESPN column made a point that if VAR was not implemented, then Colombia would have been eliminated from the tournament. You don’t want a World Cup without James Rodriguez now, do you? Because I certainly wouldn’t like it. Now sometimes the referees who are up in the VAR booth may have disagreements with the call, but ultimately the one who makes the call is the one on the field. An example of getting the call correct was Marcos Rojo’s handball against Nigeria in the penalty area as that was not a penalty because the ball came off his head and then hit his arm. Had it hit his arm first it would have been a penalty and probably a yellow card. VAR has missed some calls and there is always room for improvement, but 99.3% suggests that it’s been great for the sport.
So whether it’s offsides, a handball, a missed penalty call, or whatever, VAR has been essential in this World Cup. My hope is that it expands to other competitions including the one I watch the most of, Premier League. If that’s the case then the sport will only get better with even more improvements to VAR. It might even get more people interested in the sport over here in America.